As of the date of this review, Mabel’s Dramatic Career does not appear to be available on DVD. The Amazon link is for a VHS tape that contains this title. If you are seeking this short feature, you are advised to search for a DVD release. This is a 14 minute silent movie.
This review does contain spoilers. Don’t be alarmed though, the outcome is no secret.
Mabel (Mabel Normand) is a kitchen maid. Mack (Mack Sennett) lives with his mother (Alice Davenport), who employs Mabel.
The home doesn’t look like one in which servants are employed, but this is 1913 and anything is possible.
Mack wants to marry Mabel and in the opening scene produces a ring and gives it to her. She’s thrilled, but within minutes Mack’s mother finds out and shows great disapproval. She immediately puts Mabel back to work.
Suddenly, a visitor comes to call. It’s a girl (Virginia Kirtley) from the city. We don’t know for what reason she is there but without her there’s no story.
Mack decides she is more exciting and he immediately ditches Mabel and goes after this new girl.
Mabel protests and tries to hang on to him but he boots her from the home. She’s penniless and walks away with her suitcase.
But, she ends up in front of Keystone Studios. Here’s where it gets interesting.
Mabel wanders in and a rehearsal appears to be going on for a movie. She is quickly welcomed to the group and, poof, she’s an instant movie star.
That’s not all that hard to believe.
Meanwhile, Mack has been rejected by the city girl. As soon as he is jilted, he pulls out a picture of Mabel and realizes that he’s made a mistake.
Some years later…
…Mack is still a rube and he’s outside a movie house when he notices a Keystone movie poster with Mabel’s picture on it. He goes in to see the picture.
Here is where we get some interesting shots of a movie within a movie. The movie plays on the screen while a piano player pounds away. We also get a shot of the projection room.
It’s interesting to see that movies were already including stories about movies in 1913.
This is obviously Mack’s first time seeing a movie because he thinks that what he is watching is real.
A villain is threatening Mabel and Mack goes through a few minutes of wild theatrics – which conclude with Mack producing a pistol and shooting up the theater, thus emptying the occupants out onto the street.
Fatty Arbuckle appears only as a patron in the theater who ties to calm Mack down. Even this brief appearance by Arbuckle is funny.
After shooting up the theater Mack goes looking for the villain – and somehow finds him. He’s married to Mabel and they have children. Mack can hardly believe it.
This is very early film and it’s simple, slapstick humor. But, it is very interesting to this reviewer. Someone that thinks that what he sees on a movie screen is real was probably an accurate portrayal of a lot of people in 1913.
It would be easy for the casual observer to dismiss this as a silly short little piece of comedy from the early 20th Century but there was probably a little more thought going on here than meets the eye.
Mack Sennett was a Canadian who was one of the founders of the Keystone Studio. He and Normand apparently were actual lovers for a time. Sennett lived to be 80 years old but both Normand and Arbuckle had relatively short and tragic lives. Both were involved in murder scandals during their lives and are two very interesting people from the era of early Hollywood. By 1933, both were dead.